Should Natrona County maintain private public access roads? Or County Roads?

(Natrona County, Wyo.) - The Natrona County Commissioners held an intense meeting at the Natrona County Courthouse Tuesday night, where a public hearing for a notice of intent to adopt the rules governing county support for service districts was the topic of discussion. It was reported that the County Commissioners had received one email opposed to the intent before the meeting began. The new rules would allow Service Districts, or a group of property owners in Natrona County subdivisions, to generate funds to fix and repair roads, that are not designated county roads, but open to public use and the County would match the funds generated up to $250,000. This would come from One Cent county funds. Five Natrona County community members addressed council and expressed their appeals against the new rules. Natrona County resident, Paul Walters addressed the board and stated, "It seems strange to me that you are struggling to maintain the designated county roads and now you are sending our money to not county roads. These are not county roads, yes they are open to public use, but not designated county roads." It was also reported at the meeting that the University of Wyoming conducted a study of the county roads in Natrona County, and their are 140 miles of county roads in NC, and 133 miles are in bad shape. NC Commissioner Steve Schlager expressed his disapproval in the rules and commented to fellow Commissioner Rob Hendry, "We are taking county funds, and spending them on not county roads, that do not have a county name on them. We are using county equipment, county labor on these private projects. Yes, this system can be abused, to me, the Service Districts are creating a grant, then we are giving them a matching grant, and once we start opening our checkbooks to private roads, where does it end?" Other members of the public also spoke in opposition of the program and brought up that the county now struggles to maintain the designated county roads. Paul Paad addressed the Commissioners and questioned, "Why spend money on private roads, designated public use, but are not county roads? I think and many will agree, county funds should be spent on county roads." Commissioner Sclager mentioned that he had, "yet to come across anyone in favor of the rule change." Commissioner Rob Hendry rebuttal-ed the comments stating, "We put this out when the One Cent Funds were voted on. It was a part of the Neighborhood Road Funds Project. We are simply kick-starting the process for these Service Districts in the county. " Chairman Forrest Chadwick commented, "Currently we have three Service Districts who are interested in the program, and I doubt we will see many more." One Natrona County resident, William Garber addressed council and weighed in favor of the program, "The county has helped us on our road, and any extra help we can get from the county is a huge help." Natrona County resident, Judy Jones, commented to the board, "It is time you get your priorities straight and fix all of the county roads and not just certain private roads. Why can we not maintain the county roads we have now? It is time you put your money where your mouth is." County residents, Ed and Judy Oldhouse spoke in opposition of the new rules stating, "It shouldn't be the county, or the taxpayers duty to manage these improvement districts. We shouldn't be putting a hand out to these private, public access roads when we cannot take care of our designated county roads." Ed Oldhouse stated, "The county is not responsible for maintaining these roads." Other members of the community echoed these same points. Questions were asked 'Who determines who gets these funds?" and "What is the criteria," "What is in place to prevent abuse?". Commissioners Hendry and Chairman Chadwick responded that it would be up to the Commissioners to determine who qualifies and who does not. Before votes were cast Commissioners spoke about the issue, "These are private roads, yes dedicated to public access, they do not belong to the county," stated Commissioner Sclager. Commissioner Matt Keating spoke and commented, "I will have to go against my word to other commissioners tonight. I think Commissioner Sclager got it right. This is more of an obligation to private/public roads than to our county roads. I am not in support of this tonight. I think we should defer these funds to the three major bridge projects in the county and our county roads." Vice Chairman, John Lawson spoke for the first time during the meeting and said, "These roads are not county roads. A county road is declared a county road as a roadway which has been maintained by the county. But we are providing the seed money on public roads, if the subdivision gets a service district." Votes were cast and Commissioners Steve Sclager and Matt Keating voted against the new rules, while Vice Chairman John Lawson and Commissioner Rob Henry voted in favor, leaving the decision up to Chairman Chadwick. He commented before recording a vote in favor of the rule change, "I am convinced we do need to keep our promise to the public, which included the Neighborhood Road Funds Project." The motion passed to the dismay of the concerned County residents. #oilcity